Country Rugby League has today announced a major change to their Senior Men’s Country Championships, with an expanded under-23’s competition to replace the current format from 2017.
The restructure was formalised today at the Country Rugby League AGM, with the new format to align more closely with the Australian Rugby League Commission’s (ARLC) Pathways model and structures.
CRL CEO Terry Quinn believes the new format will provide greater opportunities for regional players to progress through the Rugby League pathways to higher honours.
“Whilst the decision to restructure the Senior Men’s Country Championships was difficult, we believe the new format will provide a greater opportunity for regional players to progress through the Rugby League pathways into the Intrust Super Premiership and NRL,” Quinn said.
“The 19-23-year-old age bracket is our peak participation range for senior football and traditionally players outside of this age range have a lesser chance of progressing through the pathways unless they’re already playing, or have played, in higher levels of competition. “
“By restructuring the format to under-23’s we are giving more players in our peak participation range the opportunity to advance their Rugby League careers.”
Whilst the NRL’s new pathway models include state-based under-20’s competitions, the decision to increase the Senior Men’s Country Championships to under-23’s was made to allow for a greater number of players who don’t make the under-20’s to still have the opportunity to play a higher level of football and progress through the pathways. It is also hoped that the under-23’s format will allow late maturing players a pathway to higher honours.
The new competition structure will see ten teams competing across two pools (North and South) in a knockout format, with the Northern and Southern winners facing off in the final to decide who is named Country Champions.
A full announcement on the participating teams will be made at a later date.
Meanwhile the CRL have announced that this years AAMI City Country fixture will be the last ever, one year after Tamworth hosted the prestigious event at Scully Park.
The final fixture will be held at the Glen Willow Regional Sports Stadium on Sunday May 7.
Quinn said he was determined that the historic match, which has been staged on and off since 1911, would go out on a high with some of the greatest players ever to represent Australia being honoured during the final game.
Country NSW has produced some of the finest players to wear the green and gold and we will pay tribute to them during this final match,” Mr Quinn said.
“Players like Mick Cronin, Blocker Roach, Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell and so many others learnt their craft in country areas and went on to become greats in our game.”
NSWRL CEO Dave Trodden echoed the sentiments of the CRL.